West End Shuttle a hit despite confused riders | AspenTimes.com

West End Shuttle a hit despite confused riders

John Colson

After two weeks of operation, the experimental West End Shuttle system seems to be working well, according to a city official.

Lysa Usher, the city’s transportation coordinator, said Monday that 80 people made use of the shuttle in its first week of business, and that the number jumped to 120 people in the second week.

“I think more and more people are finding out about it,” Usher said. “It seems to be successful.”

The experimental shuttle service has been funded out of the receipts from the city’s paid parking program, and was created in response to neighborhood demand.

The $42,000 is paying for a 10-week “trial period,” during which 26 High Mountain Taxi vans are offering a rotating service schedule between the Rubey Park Transit Center and the northern edge of the West End neighborhood.

In between, the vans circulate around the City Market grocery store and onto Main Street, turning up Monarch into the West End and meandering back to Smuggler Street. The vans then go up Seventh to Hallam and back down Sixth to Smuggler for the return trip.

Usher said that while the drivers have not been keeping a detailed ridership record during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday rush, they will start doing so this week. That record will show how many people are using the service and which stops they are using, which may lead to refinements of the route later on.

“We’ve gotten lots of calls from people saying, `This is great! Keep it up!'” Usher reported. And there have only been a few problems, mostly relating to confusion about scheduled stops versus the “flag down” portion of the route.

Essentially, she said, anywhere north of Main Street is the “flag down” section, where riders can wave the van down anywhere between the fixed stops. But on Main Street and to the south, the vans will only stop at designated places.

Usher reported that one man, confused about the distinction between the two parts of the route, twice flagged down regular cabs on Main Street and was charged for his ride home. The city reimbursed him for the rides, Usher said, declining to name the man.

She said there also has been some confusion because all of High Mountain’s 26-van fleet are taking part in the shuttle route at one point or another, but are scheduled for regular cab service at other times. Because all the vans have the “West End Shuttle” sign in the window, she said, riders get confused and attempt to get free rides from cabs on normal duty.

But, she said, the city and High Mountain are working out the bugs in the system, in hopes that it can be taken over by the Roaring Fork Transit Agency in the future. RFTA has been unable to hire enough drivers to run the West End Shuttle up until now.

Until all the bugs are worked out, Usher suggested riders intending to make use of the shuttle should simply ask the driver if they are in the right vehicle when they climb aboard.

She said route maps and information sheets on the service are now available in the vans, at Rubey Park, and at the City Hall transportation office. Additional sheets will be distributed to West End homes this week, along with a survey about the service, she said.

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